The 11 Plus was officially discontinued in Northern Ireland, but has re-emerged as a different selective process. The original political intention had been to introduce fully comprehensive education in the region, but there was a fierce backlash from both grammar schools and parents to the imposition of what they described as a “one size fits all educational system”.

From the chaos some degree of order has been created, at least for the time being. The original Transfer Test was abolished in 2008. The annual tests are not run by the Department of Education but most primary schools in Northern Ireland have decided to continue with unofficial academic selection. Primary schools were not allowed to prepare children for those. They were prohibited from supplying support materials, coaching, test familiarisation. In September 2016, the Education Minister had decided to overturn that decision and gave primary schools the freedom to support pupils for preparation for the 11 plus but has decided against re-introducing a common departmental-run 11 plus test.

Two consortia of schools have emerged: the Association for Quality Education (AQE), and another group known as the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC). The GL Assessment exam which is run by the PPTC is mainly used by Catholic grammar schools, while the AQE is mainly used by other grammar schools. The entrance tests for the two consortiums differ, and there is a brief summary of both below.

The number of applicants to grammar schools continues to increase every year. Children can sit either test or both tests or choose not to sit either. For 2017 entry, there are 7,700 entrants for the AQE test and 6,981 for the GL Assessment test. That makes a total of 14,681. About 2000 will sit both tests. There 14,575 applicants for 2016 entry and there were 12,047 applications for GL/AQE for 2015 entry. Some schools accept both GL and AQE scores. Some schools are partially selective. Two voluntary grammar schools, Loreto College in Coleraine and St Patrick’s Grammar in Armagh no longer use academic selection.


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